Monday, September 19, 2016

Liberation Theology in Various Colors

Yesterday's episode of On Being had a great interview with Civil Rights worker Ruby Sales.  She talked about the difference between the black church and black folk religion.  She sees black folk religion as the savior of the U.S.:  "And I would go on further to say that black folk religion, the kind of resistance movements that came out of black folk religion, have saved America from tilting over into the abyss of fascism. It has been the salvation of a country. It has been the balance to talk about that kind of justice, and god talk, and reaffirmation, and love, and right relations. To talk about that in the heat of empire, to talk about God as a liberating God, has really been an important stopgap to save America from itself."

She also speculates about the necessity of a liberation theology designed for white people--it was a twist that I haven't spent much time pondering.  But she makes a good case:

And we’ve got a spirit — there’s a spiritual crisis in white America. It’s a crisis of meaning, and I don’t hear — we talk a lot about black theologies, but I want a liberating white theology. I want a theology that speaks to Appalachia. I want a theology that begins to deepen people’s understanding about their capacity to live fully human lives and to touch the goodness inside of them rather than call upon the part of themselves that’s not relational. Because there’s nothing wrong with being European American. That’s not the problem. It’s how you actualize that history and how you actualize that reality. It’s almost like white people don’t believe that other white people are worthy of being redeemed.

And I don’t quite understand that. It must be more sexy to deal with black folk than it is to deal with white folk if you’re a white person. So as a black person, I want a theology that gives hope and meaning to people who are struggling to have meaning in a world where they no longer are as essential to whiteness as they once were."

What would that theology look like?  It could be as varied as any of us, but Sales is on to something.  How do we define a life of meaning for people who are part of a race that was once a dominating/dominant force, but are no longer?

We might begin by reminding people that although those who rule the Empire may look like them in terms of skin color, but that doesn't mean that the forces of Empire are really working for them.  Empires tend to run by making us all feel fearful about how much we have and how we're going to keep it.

God offers us an alternate version, one which is not a zero-sum game, where your gains result in my losses.  God offers us an alternate vision in which we all gain, where we all have what we need.

That's a liberation view that could excite many of us.

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